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India vs Sri Lanka: Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane dominate Day 1 of 2nd Test

Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane struck an unbeaten 211-run partnership to take India to 344/3 at stumps on Day 1 of the second Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo.

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Aug 03, 2017 18:11 IST
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Hindustan Times, Colombo
India vs Sri Lanka,Sri Lanka vs India,KL Rahul
Indian cricketers Ajinkya Rahane (C) and Cheteshwar Pujara (L) scored centuries on the first day of the second Test against Sri Lanka at the Sinhalease Sports Club (SSC) Ground in Colombo on Thursday.(AFP)

Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane smashed hundreds to help India seize the initiative on the opening day of the second Test against Sri Lanka at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground on Thursday. (IND vs SL Highlights)

Pujara (128*) and Rahane’s (103*) unfinished fourth wicket partnership has yielded 211 runs, India finishing the day on 344 for three in 90 overs as Sri Lanka’s spin gamble backfired. (IND vs SL SCORECARD)

Opener KL Rahul marked his return to international cricket from a long injury-lay off with his sixth successive half-century to set the foundation and the middle-order consolidated.

With Sri Lanka preferring a dry track, which is expected to take spin as the game progresses, India skipper Virat Kohli won a crucial toss to get to make first use of the wicket. India’s top-order seemed to fritter away the advantage before Pujara and Rahane combined forces to show how good the SSC track was for batting early in the game.

SL’s early advantage

Sri Lanka, 0-1 down in the three-match series after losing the Galle Test by 304 runs, have gambled with three spinners and a single pace bowler. Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath shared the new ball with paceman Nuwan Pradeep. Their attempts to put pressure worked for a brief while as they reduced India to 133 for three, with the three famed strokeplayers Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli back in the hut.

From that stage, Sri Lanka should have consolidated. However, Pujara and Rahane played positively to push the hosts on the backfoot, taking the initiative away for the home side.

All eyes were on Pujara, being his 50th Test, and he was playing at a venue where he had started his turnaround in 2015 with a fighting, unbeaten 145.

He didn’t disappoint, getting his 13th century and reaching 4000 Test runs. The SSC 2015 to SSC 2017 cycle has seen a glorious run for Pujara, in which he has notched seven hundreds.

Pujara steps up

After making a sedate start, Pujara gradually picked up momentum. Barring a few scratchy shots at the start, it was a faultless innings during which he was decisive in his footwork and judged the length superbly. His use of his feet against spinners was a treat to watch, forcing them to shorten the length or push the ball wide.

For his two left-arm spinners, Rangana Herath and Malinda Pushpakumara, Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal kept the third man region open while packing the on side. Pujara made a mockery of the tactics by punching holes through Sri Lanka’s defences on the leg side by time and again stepping out to on drive. While he would lean back and cut whenever the left-armers pitched short.

For Rahane getting his ninth hundred was important in the sense that he had, since scoring 188 against New Zealand at Indore in October 2016, the Mumbai batsman had gone nine Tests and 19 innings without a century. In between, he got to a few half-centuries, but was unable to convert it into three figures, a story similar to what happened in the opening Test at Galle where he got out after getting well-set.

Finally, before the talk about his conversion rate could grow any louder and affect his game, Rahane ended the wait. And Sri Lanka are left facing an uphill task if they are to come back into the game.

First Published: Aug 03, 2017 09:56 IST